Sunday, March 29, 2009

Globalisation and trade: world trade shrivels

I blogged earlier that trade limits and recession are a bad mix. Not a blog post per se--it was a newspaper op-ed piece. Along that line of logic, I am not sure if I should be happy that I am right, or if I should worry that I am right; here is an excerpt from the Economist:
Trade is contracting again, at a rate unmatched in the post-war period. This week the World Trade Organisation (WTO) predicted that the volume of global merchandise trade would shrink by 9% this year. This will be the first fall in trade flows since 1982. Between 1990 and 2006 trade volumes grew by more than 6% a year, easily outstripping the growth rate of world output, which was about 3% (see chart 1). Now the global economic machine has gone into reverse: output is declining and trade is tumbling at a faster pace. The turmoil has shaken commerce in goods of all sorts, bought and sold by rich and poor countries alike.

It is too soon to talk of a new protectionist spiral. Nevertheless, errors of policy risk making a bad thing worse—despite politicians’ promises to keep markets open. When they met in November, the leaders of the G20 rich and emerging economies declared that they would eschew protectionism and will doubtless do so again when they meet on April 2nd. But this pledge has not been honoured. According to the World Bank, 17 members of the group have taken a total of 47 trade-restricting steps since November.

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